Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Amazon Account Locked Due to Alleged Remarks to Driver

Brandon Jackson (Hacker News, 3):

A package was delivered to my house on Wednesday, May 24, and everything seemed fine. The following day, however, I found that my Echo Show had signed out, and I was unable to interact with my smart home devices.


When I connected with the executive, they asked if I knew why my account had been locked. When I answered I was unsure, their tone turned somewhat accusatory. I was told that the driver who had delivered my package reported receiving racist remarks from my “Ring doorbell”[…].


If the driver’s claims were accurate, I could easily verify them with video footage. Second, most delivery drivers in my area share the same race as me and my family. It seemed highly unlikely that we would make such remarks. Finally, when I asked what time the alleged incident occurred, I realized it was practically impossible for anyone in my house to have made those comments, as nobody was home around that time (approximately 6:05 PM). […] Instead, the Eufy doorbell had issued an automated response: “Excuse me, can I help you?” The driver, who was walking away and wearing headphones, must have misinterpreted the message.


I fully support Amazon taking measures to ensure the safety of their drivers. However, I question why my entire smart home system had to be rendered unusable during their internal investigation.

So their system is that the driver doesn’t have to present any evidence, and you need to record everything just to prove your innocence?


Update (2023-06-23): Louis Rossmann (Hacker News):

Amazon cancels my [7-year-old affiliate] account after exposing account lockout for “racist doorbell”


Amazon accuses me of breaking terms of service.


Amazon’s claims of abuse are wrong

Update (2023-07-25): See also: Hacker News.

Update (2023-10-10): See also: Jarod Facundo.

13 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

In my view, the problem here isn't that the driver can just unilaterally decide that Amazon won't deliver to me anymore. In my opinion, that's still kind of fine. Like, whatever, I'll just order from somewhere else, they're not really obligated to let me order from them, and it's at most a minor inconvenience for me. Maybe giving more weight to the driver's safety than to my convenience makes sense.

The problem is that we have a few accounts that are each tied to hundreds of services. If my Amazon account gets locked, not only can I no longer receive packages from Amazon, I also can't access my photos anymore, can't watch movies, probably can't access my AWS instances, and so on. My Google account is even worse, I've used it to log into third-party websites, so chances are I might even lose access to those, and of course to my email, to my photo archive going back a decade, to my calendar, possibly to my fricken phone, and who knows what else.

This is absolute insanity.

And the reason for losing access can be something entirely outside of your control, like in this example. Or let's say you auto-upload images your friends send you on WhatsApp to your Google Photos account. Congratulations, you've just given people the ability to turn off your Google account by sending you the wrong picture.

@Plume Leaving it solely up to the driver (without having to demonstrate harm) seems like a really slippery slope. They could start denying service to people based on the religious marker on their door or the political campaign sign on their lawn, etc. There’s not always an alternative to Amazon that’s just a minor inconvenience, and a particular package that’s en-route might be time sensitive or an essential medication. Given the way prescriptions and insurance work (at least in the US) it can be tricky to get a replacement from an alternate source on short notice.

Of course, the other stuff is insanity, too.

@Michael Tsai
Yes, the old "I will refuse service to group X" is definitely a problem, but the big problem here is if Amazon is the only reasonable option. That needs to be solved.

Jeff Flowers

This is why I highly recommend having a separate, dedicated Amazon account for their Kindle books. I've seen people lose access to their books because of issues such as this or for too many returns.

So many slippery slopes nowadays :(
Seems like once innovative and exciting companies are being ruled by woke mobs within and we are all suffering for it.

"Leaving it solely up to the driver (without having to demonstrate harm) seems like a really slippery slope"

Dunno, when people regularly get shot because they drove up the wrong driveway or ring the wrong door, prioritizing driver safety over somebody's ability to order something from Amazon seems 100% fine with me. I agree with Magnus, if there are people who fully depend on Amazon for things like prescriptionss, and have no alternative option, *that* is the problem.

I should also point out that "slippery slope" is usually not a very compelling argument, because it implies that the step being made now is reasonable, but you're still against it because hypothetical future steps might not be. If this step is reasonable, then let's make it and rediscuss once an unreasonable step is actually being made (like refusing service to an entire group of people).

"ruled by woke mobs"

Oh yeah, Amazon, the famously woke company. The one where drivers pee in bottles, warehouse workers are prevented from unionizing with illegal tactics? The company that is exempt from sales taxes in most states, the company that sells a ton of counterfeit items? We can all just wish that they were more woke.

@Plume Yeah, I think “slippery slope” was not the right term to use here. I don’t think this step was reasonable, and I think it sets a bad precedent. If Amazon drivers are in fact regularly being shot, this is not the right solution to that problem, either.

“Woke” has become one of those terms that’s frustrating because people don’t agree on what it means. Wikipedia says that when used as an insult it can refer to the target as being performative or insincere. I don’t know how cynical they are, but certainly Amazon, Apple, and many other companies express certain values while not fully living them.

What do you suggest would be the right solution to the problem of drivers being unsafe, other than them reporting instances that made them unsafe, and Amazon reviewing them and stopping shipment to those addresses when they find the report credible and relevant?

Clearly, in this instance, there was a misunderstanding, but the fact that mistakes happen doesn't mean that the process is wrong. Mistakes happen with every process, and this is the first time I've heard of something like this happening, so mistakes don't seem to be particularly common.

The main issue I see here is, again, that they don't just stop delivery to that address, they just outright lock the whole account, with all of its associated services. *That* is bs.

Also, I'm not sure what there's any misunderstanding when people say "ruled by the woke mob." They mean "young blue-haired kids have different values from mine, and I don't like it, but instead of confronting the actual points with actual argument, I'm insulting them."

@Plume Well, it doesn’t sound like Amazon reviewed anything (e.g. a recording) or found anything credible (just the word of a guy wearing headphones) before they shut off the entire account. The executive treated the customer as guilty from the start, and he would have been out of luck if he hadn’t had his own recordings. Then they started the investigation and said there would be a response within 2 business days, which there wasn’t. Apparently there never was an apology or any response other than turning the account back on. So I don’t see what there is to like about this process. At minimum, there was no reason to lock the account, and they could have switched deliveries to another carrier (USPS has a legal obligation to serve everyone) while investigating.

Presumably, they reviewed whether the driver's account of the situation merited a response. The fact that the account was based on a misunderstanding is unfortunate, but mistakes happen, and it was resolved.

Obviously, there's nothing to like about this as a customer, but customers aren't the only people involved here.

Also, if the customer hadn't had a doorbell with a camera, the misunderstanding wouldn't have happened in the first place, so the only reason he needed a recording is because he had a device that made recordings.

@Plume In this specific case, we don’t know for sure that it was a genuine misunderstanding. We don’t even know what the driver supposedly heard. And in other cases, there could certainly be a misunderstanding of what was heard through a door or from a neighboring apartment. Not having a high-tech doorbell is no guarantee of anything.

"In this specific case, we don’t know for sure that it was a genuine misunderstanding"

What else do you think it was?

The reality here is that if there had actually been somebody calling this driver racist names, no reasonable person would have a problem with Amazon stopping delivery to that address. So what is the actual problem here? The fact that, hypothetically, there could be a misunderstanding where the Amazon customer can't prove their innocence during Amazon's investigation of the incident, and they get cut off from Amazon? Has that ever happened?

And if that's the yardstick by which we measure it, doesn't that apply to literally anything? Innocent people go to jail, but we don't close all jails and just let murderers roam free.

I think the actual problem has nothing to do with the delivery issue; it has to do with the entire Amazon account, including the smart devices etc., being disabled?

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